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Realistic Optimism - Every ending has a new beginning

Last July 8, I attended a retirement party; and like most farewell gatherings, it was filled with joy and sadness. The honouree was a gentle, kind and caring person who had helped many people, including me. There were always cakes and sweets on her desk for anyone who needed a boost on a hectic day. I often had it out of ‘gourmandise’ (greed). I miss her and her chocolates, and it’s strange not to see her grin anymore.

Everything has an ending; however, this ending has also a beginning. Today may be your last working day, but it’s also an opportunity to start something you have been wanting to do for a long time, such as going to the gym, reading a book, jogging, travelling or relaxing on a sofa or hammock, etc.

The passing of time is inevitably fast that no one is far from any ending. Most situations that herald the end of something, like retirement, retrenchment, graduation, leaving home, holiday, relationships, entertainment or sporting events, mean ‘change.’ The majority of people are anxious about changes because of fear of a possible loss, uncertainty and anxiety (though 90% of these worries don’t happen). We should consider the end of any event or situation as a change that has a silver lining even when it looks sombre.

With any change, positivism is the key. Our thoughts, emotions and feelings affect our body. While positive thoughts and emotions encourage calmness and physical activity, negative thoughts inhibit peace and efficiency. Positivism involves restructuring our perceptions and thinking process so that any problem or negative situation, such as change or end of a situation, is accepted as having benefits or as a stepping stone to something better. After all, change is the only constant in life.

Health and Well-being

Last June 19 - 22 was Well-Being Week at the European Parliament and there were exhibitions and information sessions held to inspire and help people to be healthy and happy. June 21 was Music Festival not only in France and Luxembourg but in many parts of the world, and it made many people joyful. June 22 was UN International Yoga Day and it highlighted the useful contribution of yoga to humankind's healthy lifestyle that is harmonious with nature. In Luxembourg, the 23rd was a public holiday as it was the country's national day filled with festivities, food stalls, concerts, fireworks and merrymaking.

These were different events, but had similar goals, which were to inform, entertain and encourage people to relax and be peaceful -- important for our well-being. When we are happy and peaceful, we are stressed-resistant and our immune system functions favourably maintaining a healthy body and mind. My adult students recently did a class project on health and well-being, and concluded that “Healthy workplaces are positive and positive workplaces are healthy.”

You may argue that achieving a work-life balance isn’t easy as it doesn’t only involve you and there are issues beyond your control, such as a demanding job and/or boss. Rightly so, however, this one person (YOU) has choices. We can have positive daily work experience in the midst of deadlines, not-so-caring supervisor and uncooperative or annoying colleagues. At home, relationships can be improved by having open communication, by being honest and respectful, and by showing more empathy and understanding. We have different levels of optimism, but even a half-empty glass has a space that can be filled. If everyone contributes to filling this, it does not take long for it to be full again.

On the global level, The World Economic Forum (Matthieu Ricard) has identified 5 ways to improve health and well-being: (... Read more ...)

What’s wrong with his Japanese education?

What’s wrong with his Japanese education

The video below is a part of Prime Minister Abe’s Q&A session, which I tried to translate as accurately as I could. Feel free to improve it.

A woman asks, “As for the LDP party, what sort of policy do you intend to focus on?” He answers:

“The Preamble of the Constitution of Japan asserts that ‘we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.’ In other words, it says that we leave it to the rest of the world to ensure our own security. And, ‘We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth.’ It does not mean that we think of banishing tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance. The international society thinks so, and that’s how we seek help from them. It is petty. Quite frankly, it is a disreputable/undignified constitution. Because it is not made by the Japanese, isn’t it? Due to such constitution, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not obliged [allowed?] to make comments (on the Constitution). That is left to the international community to do so. That’s how the spirit has become. I think that it is important to change from there.”

I know it is quite puzzling. When I saw this video, I was dumbfounded at first, as his answers show a complete misunderstanding of the Constitution. (Or, he lacks a basic understanding of the Japanese language). I now find it quite interesting as this reveals his revisionist logic.

日本の政治がつまらない訳

いや~、おもしろいもの見ました。この野放図もない曲解、論理のほころび。「これって、安倍さんのファンタジー?ネガショニズム?拡大・類推解釈?」混乱しますよね。

「日本人がつくったものじゃない」から、「いじましい」なら「米国のCIAに資金提供をうけてできた自民党は、みっともなくないですか?」「しかも民主主義のふりしつつ、日本もほぼ一党政治ですが?」とか、そこは、ぐっと飲みこみました。

日本人にはもとより、日本語のわかる外国人には、安倍さんの話は意味不明だと思います。国連の報告者のようなエリートなら、この女性のように礼儀として話を受けながさずに、真剣なテーマを聞きすごすのも失礼ですから、まず問いただしたり反論したりするでしょう。一撃であっけなく決着がついて、意味のない話はうち切りに知れません。

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This can happen to anyone

I’d difficulty deciding on the topic of my blog this month. My heart goes out to Manchester in the UK, especially to families, relatives and friends of those who were at Ms. Ariana Grande’s concert last May 22. More than one hundred people were injured and 22 were killed in that vicious terrorist attack, including an eight-year-old girl and an off-duty female police officer.

Last Wednesday evening, I had a mixed feeling of warmth and sadness watching on BBC Tony Walsh reading his poem ‘This Is The Place’ as a tribute to Manchester city at vigil. His rendition was defiant and resilient for peace. For me, it means not hating and living in fear; but be hopeful yet stand up for your rights.

So, here I am doing my usual routine on the first day of every month.

Most-stressful departure ever

You’ve certainly heard about flight delays and lack of information at airports that angered passengers. You probably know at least one person who has lost a luggage or whose baggage ended up on the other side of the world. How about long check-in lines that make you nervous about missing your flight? The story below is an addition to the list of disappointing travels.

Maria has been an international traveller for over 30 years and has visited about 40 countries with more than 20 stopovers/transits. Stories and anecdotes about unfortunate travelling were foreign to her until last month. Her Expedia-purchased tickets (Brussels-New York) had a very short transit in Montreal. To her surprise, she and her family couldn't board Air Canada because they didn’t have a visa for Canada and their US Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) was not enough to get them into this plane for New York.

Momotaro and the Zokkoku Theater

This is my blog about the Client State – Japan with a satire flavor. I hope to write an English paper on the Zokkoku sometimes soon, so I won’t go into detail now.

属国劇場 ~ 「あれから桃太郎は」

Momotaro

かつて、神国日本をささえた価値体系があった。国の起源を「神話」にもとめた国体論。国家神道。天皇の神格化。天皇を家長とする家族国家観。「皇祖皇宗のために命を捨てよ」と説いた教育勅語と国民総動員体制に盾つかない従順な人づくり。玉砕を強いる人命と人権の軽視。そして学問軽視。

(国のかじ取りをする人が条理明晰な説明ができずに、中身なし・専門知なしの反論だと外国人に指摘されて、逆ギレしたり開きなおったり。今も、あまり変わってないのでしょうか。世界の常識では、「国を愛し、誇りに思う心をはぐくむ」教育と、国際人権規約に抵触しそうな法案を通そうという国は、矛盾があるとみなされる)

「臣民」の童心教育で教訓性や強制力をすりこむのに、こどもたちからひろく愛された桃太郎ほど最良の教材はなかった。国際連盟から脱退を余儀なくされた日本で、その英雄の暴力性は増し、いつしかハチマキの文字も「日本一」から「世界一」に変わっていた。

戦後、占領軍はさまざまな分野の専門家を集め、日本を骨抜きにするための画策を練った。社会科学者たち(ルース・ベネディクト含む)は、「世界に類をみない特別な国」「日本人らしさ」「日本人の誇り」という偏狭な選民意識に目をつけた。それを逆手にとりアイデンティティとして宣揚すれば、日本の国際協調を困難にし、アジアで孤立させることで、常に宗主国のご機嫌をうかがう属国の思想的な下地になると、彼らは70年前に見抜いていた。

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Momotaro Story

This blog is about the articles of Okuizumi Eizaburo (1940 – 2013) on “The Story of Peach Boy and Japanese Culture.” It was published in the Japanese American newspaper, Mid America Guide, from February to August (except July) in 1996.

I think that Momotaro is still relevant in today’s Japan. Okuizumi writes that evil Oni (鬼) is Oni (隠), namely something invisible (it can be seen it as Japan’s perception of foreign threats). Momotaro story can be also associated with Nippon Kaigi school’s regimentation, hate indoctrination, and instrumentalization of children. Peach Boy is a very interesting subject to study, indeed.

奥泉栄三郎さん(1940-2013) 「桃太郎と日本文化」

Momotaro

「それにしても、あなたは年寄りの友達が多いねぇ。僕も含めてね」なにを話していたかは、覚えてないが。そう言って、奥泉さんは明るくはじけるように笑った。

彼がいなくなれば、友人関係はそれで終わってしまうものだと悲しかった。ところが、病気になった彼に代わって、妻の圭子さんという友人をあらたに得た。奥泉さんの人生は、この賢くやさしい女性にささえられてきたのだと知るようになった。

その圭子さんが、この春、彼の残した「桃太郎と日本文化」という文書を送ってくれた。

室町時代から語りつがれる民話が、軍国主義を正当化する童話として、GHQに禁じられた時期があったという。「赤鬼・青鬼」は「鬼畜米英」で、「鬼ヶ島」を「真珠湾」にたとえたのだから、ムリもない。ピーチ・ボーイの改変史を知ったのは、近年ジョン・ダワー氏の本を読んでからである。

奥泉さんも、随分まえから桃太郎をみていた。うれしいのと同時に、これは年上の友人からの警告だろうか、と思ったりもする。

つまり「桃太郎人気にご用心」ということだろうか?

。。。下につづく

No individual or nation thrives alone

Four of my friends were born in April. When I was in Australia, April was a month of non-stop partying, gift giving and receiving, and catching up with relatives and acquaintances. It’s widely known that the birthstone of April is diamond. Meanwhile, it’s still a wonder why this fourth month of the year is called as such. One explanation refers to its Latin origin, Aprilis, which is derived from aperire meaning “to open” as in the opening or blossoming of flowers and trees throughout the month of April in Europe (the northern hemisphere). Another theory is that since Aphrilis is derived from the Greek “Aphrodite” and since months are often named for gods and goddess, it can be deduced that April is in honour of the Greek goddess of love (the Romans called this goddess ‘Venus’). (see ''The Mystery Behind April’s Name'' on Dictionary.com)

This year’s April, however, didn’t seem like a month of wealth (diamond) and love for many individuals and families. The Hunger Project reveals that 795 million people, which is one in nine persons in the world, do not have enough to eat; and 98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries. (reference ''Know Your World: Facts About Hunger And Poverty'' on The Hunger Project)

Last April, you’d surely seen on TV the horrifying chemical attack in a Syrian town that prompted the US airstrikes, suicide bombing of the 2 Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, stolen truck driven by a terrorist into a store in a busy Swedish street, killing of a police officer in Paris, etc. I know none of the victims, nevertheless, these incidents have saddened me a lot and made me earthlier.

屈しない明日へのビジョン(3)

ポスト真実

みなさん「ホームランド Homeland」という米国のTV ドラマを、ご覧になったことはありますか?

事実をゆがめ 嘘も繰りかえし拡散すれば、世論やポスト真実としてなりたつという情報・印象操作や政治プロパガンダの一面を扱っています。

スノーデン氏が香港のホテルに持参していた本のタイトルも、実は「Homeland」で、同じタイトルでIT 専門家による本もでています。

その「Homeland」を下巻とすると、上巻にあたるのがCory Doctorow の「Little Brother」 (Big Brother じゃなくて) です。(わたしはまだ全部読み終えてませんが)

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屈しない明日へのビジョン(2)

インターネットと自由

4月4日。ネットでの閲覧履歴について、マーティン・ファクラー氏がツイ―ト。その後「閲覧:貴方が行っているインターネットの閲覧は売り出されるかもしれないのです。トランプはこれを許可」と孫崎享‏ 氏がリツイート。

でもね。私たちには、他の方法があります。マイクロソフトより、Linux、グーグルの代わりにダックダックゴー DuckDuckGo.com スカイプより、トックスTox / qTox

監視されるものから、監視されない自由なものへ。既得権益がらみのモノから、みんなのオープンソースのモノへ代替可能だから大丈夫。大丈夫と思いきや。

そんな単純な話ではないようだ。

。。。下につづく

屈しない明日へのビジョン(1)

最近考えていることを、書きとめたいと思います。

国有地

むかし、むかし。チリという国に、独裁者がいました。

このあくどい男は、お金ほしさに大地を売りさばいていました。

そこに通りがかったお母さんとお父さんが、夢のようにきれいな原っぱをひとめ見て気に入りました。ふたりは、見わたすかぎりの草原を買うことにしました。

「この牧草地を守りそだて、いつか時がきたら国にかえしてあげよう」そう誓いました。

それから、ながいながい年月がすぎました。その草むらは、いこいの楽園になり、みんなのもとへもどったそうです。

めでたし。めでたし。

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Fake news

Last March 4, the BBC reported on the joint declaration regarding fake news, disinformation and propaganda by Mr. David Kaye (UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression) and his counterparts from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Organisation of American States (OAS) and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

After some minutes of flicking and clicking online, I got into one of the United Nations’ websites which I thought would shed more light on this declaration. Someone from the Special Procedures Division of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights responded promptly to my request for a copy of the declaration.

This declaration focuses on concerns about fake news and the risk of censorship while trying to combat these. It, likewise, mentions the danger in which the growing prevalence of fake news or disinformation, fuelled by both State and non-State individuals and agencies, mislead citizens and interfere with people’s right to know the truth. Charter 6, the last section, says “All stakeholders – including intermediaries, media outlets, civil society and academia – should be supported in developing participatory and transparent initiatives for creating a better understanding of the impact of disinformation and propaganda on democracy, freedom of expression, journalism and civic space, as well as appropriate responses to these phenomena.”

Last month, you most probably heard about the much publicised video of a female cyclist responding to catcalls from men in a van by chasing them and destroying their vehicle’s wing mirror. This was posted on Facebook then by the media; several of them later updated their stories calling it as a hoax or fake.

How to recognise fake news?

Publishing or reporting fake news undermines the trustworthiness of the media as a whole. But, why are some media outlets and journalists not careful and thorough with their information?

「太平洋の真珠」礼賛

  • Madeira

ここはどこでしょう?

そう、ポルトガルはマデイラ諸島。

昨年末、その楽園に2週間滞在しました。過去には、結核患者の保養地としても知られたところだろうです。あそこにいたら、そりゃどんな病気でも治るでしょ、という明るく希望を持てる安息地でした。

自然保護地区内にあるホテルのスタッフは、訪ねてきた友人を迎え入れるようにあたたかく、毎日オーガニック野菜の手作り料理を食べさせてもらい、連日レバダという灌漑用水路(昔は共同洗濯場でもあったそう)沿いにトレッキングに出かけました。行けども行けども山脈が冴えて見え、海岸線の断崖に立っては足の震える思いをしました。足は震えるのだけど、引き返そうとは思わない。野趣満載。そんな不思議なチャレンジをしました。後で聞いたら、地元住民以外は立ち入り禁止地区でした。

ハヤトウリ、じゃがいも、紫陽花、ブーゲンビリア、ゴクラクチョウカ以外は、図鑑でも見たことのないような、あでやかな花が行く先々で見られ、幾筋もの大滝に息をのみ、源泉を手ですくい、ユーカリの香りを肺一杯にすい込み、幸福感いっぱいの気持ちになりました。

。。。下につづく

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